Transit is Different Going Forward — Executives Will Need to Lead Differently — and Substantial Investment Requires Substantial Results
It was a big week for the transit industry. The first time to be together as the American Public Transportation Association since New York City in November of 2019.
In fact, at that session, APTA sponsored a session asking the question “Is Ridership All That Matters?”; and 4 months later ridership in fact dropped to the lowest levels in decades, as a result of a global pandemic. Transit executives actually asked customers NOT to use their service. Remarkable.
There were three big takeaways from the industry gathering in Orlando.
1. The transit industry has changed. Even when the global reaction to COVID-19 is eliminated, and the world has returned to “normal” – transit won’t be the same. People will work differently. Travel will be different. Ridership won’t return to pre-pandemic levels. We, as an industry, need to think about what we do differently – and we need to think about the value that brings society differently.
2. Executives need to lead differently. Employees need to be looked after in a different way. The mindset of “being at your desk” needs to be thought of differently – the whole concept of “effort vs results” requires rethinking.
3. Significant investment requires significant results. Despite ridership levels plummeting to all-time lows – revenue to transit has gone to record highs. Operating subsidies from federal and local governments, and now with passage of a $1.2T infrastructure legislation, the necessity to deliver results is pressure packed. Just like employees can no longer simply put in effort to earn a paycheck – they can work from home but need to demonstrate value – the same is true for agencies – this significant investment will require transit to demonstrate significant results.
This is our time. Doing it the same way won’t cut it. Projects that drive performance need to be the answer.